I just came back from a trip to Zion National Park. I blogged about the trip on my personal blog and I mentioned how surprised I was to be impressed by a meatloaf. If there was a list of unsexy but comforting foods, I think meatloaf would make top ten. One of my travel companions told me she didn’t get the appeal of meatloaf. And though I’ve made and consumed meatloaf, I never thought I’d write about it. Yet here I am. About to tell you about the best meatloaf I’ve ever had.
I didn’t expect much of a culinary experience when visiting Zion National Park. I went for the park and for the bonding with my friends. I trusted my server but again didn’t expect to be blown away by the wild game meatloaf. What makes it special? Could be the bison and elk ground up with beef. Could be that it’s bacon wrapped. And or it’s smothered by a Guinness gravy.
Ashley who wasn’t into meatloaf took a bite. And then later took another bite off my plate. “This is the first meatloaf where I didn’t think it was just a loaf of meat.” So if ever you go to Zion National Park (which you should), I strongly urge you to go to Wildcat Willies Ranch Grill & Saloon and order the meatloaf.
We came back the next morning. I ordered one of their late riser’s breakfasts (entrees that are served after 11 am). The stuffed (with sausage) biscuits and gravy. It was good but the sausage was hardly a substantial sliver. I still very happily loaded on carbs before our first hike.
I have a friend very dear to me. We met on Youtube five years ago and have maintained a close friendship despite living in different cities and sometimes different states. The last two months, Treavor has been a resident of Austin and for the first time in our friendship, we were able to casually call on each other with hardly any notice. It has been splendid. We have had short notice dinners, planned home-cooked meals, two emergency ice cream dates, and a short notice stand up comedy show. His extended stay in Austin is coming to an end as he is embarking on an international tour. Last night we had our last supper until the next time his nomadic self finds himself in Austin again. I’m going to miss him!
It’s been some years since I’ve last been to La Condesa but I do remember it being a great place for solid modern Mexican fare. Also, their cocktails were intricate and memorable. I was driving last night so I skipped the alcohol.
We ordered a flight of salsa ($5), the pescado tacos (griddled Texas redfish, cabbage, chipotle mayo, pico de gallo, salsa moronity; $12), and the pollo rostizado tacos (rotisserie chicken, chile rub, salsa verde, cilantro; $9). They were delightful and the flight of salsas proved to be handy as the fish tacos needed a bit more salsa to balance out the cabbage.
I’ve been working really hard on portion control and felt this was just perfect amount of food. (I also had a late lunch and this was an early dinner). My dining companion was still a little hungry and I’ve never known him to skip on dessert. And well, I’m always a team player when it comes to sharing food.
So we shared the Horguera (toasted marshmallow semifreddo, milk chocolate, graham, funnel pollen, strawberry-agua dulce red shiso sorbet, $9). The toasted marshmallow semifreddo had the texture of a creamy cheesecake. Divine! We even influenced nearby diners to order it.
Alas, good meals just like extended stays eventually come to an end. Cheers to next time!
I have a group of lady friends whom I’ve met through our passion for food and food writing and have since cultivated rich friendships with them. We try to meet every month or two. However, the five of us have such busy lives and are at various stages of life that it means sometimes we go too long before we can find a date that works for all of us. The last time we managed to all be free at the same time was in August when we caught up over pizza.
Reservations only for parties of eight or larger
We finally got it together in 2015 and met up to try the newly opened Launderette. It was such a fantastic meal and we gossiped over a good portion of their menu. We all agreed that everything we tasted was impeccable with very mild disagreements on favorites. For instance, everyone really liked the caramelized endives but I had a hard time processing it. Is it a candy? A vegetable? I also quite enjoyed the chicken liver pâté but the girls felt it was a tad heavy. Michelle and I both thought the Brick Chicken was our favorites. Funny for both of us because we rarely order chicken when we’re out, but it was so moist and delectable, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Not pictured but also devoured were excellent fries, an apple pie, and the famous ice cream sandwiches. Everyone loved the ice cream sandwiches and they were popular in my instagram newsfeed, but I much preferred the apple pie and I don’t even like apple pies!
Overall, we agreed that it was superb dining experience. From the ambiance, the service, the fashionable people watching, and the price. We ate like royalty and expected to break the bank but were quite relieved when we got the bill!
My take on must orders: Brick Chicken, Charred Octopus, Soft Egg Toast, Chicken Liver Pâté
A few weeks ago, I was an invited guest at Farmgrass Fundraiser VIP Gala, an event whose funds will support a newly created emergency medical fund for local, independent farmers. The fund is dedicated to helping farmers in the greater Austin area with medical emergencies that may prevent them from maintaining their farms and thus their livelihoods. The evening raised over $10,000!
The gala was hosted at the Austonian and the farm-to-table dinner was prepared by Chef Erik R. Zamora and provided by the following Texan farms:
Farmhouse Delivery – Austin, TX
Windy Meadows Family Farm – Schertz, TX
Loncito’s Lamb – Dinero, TX
Oak Hill Farm – Poteet, TX
Miguel Ortiz Farm – Mission, TX
Cooper Farm – Fairfield, TX
Village Farm – Marfa, TX
Labranza Farm- Buda, TX
Animal Farm – Cat Springs, TX
It was a happy surprise to run into my friends, the kindhearted and beautiful Melody of Gourmet Fury and Jane of A Taste of Koko. We were the only ones with the audacity to dip our toes into the pool while in cocktail dresses.
The next big fundraising event supporting this cause is Farmgrass Fest, a bluegrass concert at the Simmons Farm in Niederwald, TX on May 3rd. Tickets are $20 dollars from their website, $25 at the door. The bluegrass lineup includes The Gravy Brothers + Special Guests, Whiskey Shivers, The Lost Pines, Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay’s High Plains Jamboree, and Fog & Bone.
I find rainy day activities can be so good for the soul. Especially if it’s a novel activity with friends and food is involved. I spent my rainy Saturday with Anita, Amy, Kathy and Sarah dabbling in wood burning. Anita hosted a unique craft party sponsored by Brit&Co and Triscuit and we were her lucky guests.
Brit & Co. have wonderful craft kits you can purchase from their site. Their wood-burning standard kits have a wood-burning pen with four tips, a wood cheese board and a practice board. We had a lot of fun practicing with and testing out each of the four tips.
I love Anita’s honeycomb design. She cut out a paper hexagon and traced it with a pencil on to her board. We all agreed the straight-edge tip was the easiest tip to use for lines.
I opted for a vine design for my cheeseboard. The leaf tip was a pleasure to use. I pressed and held and there was no anxiety about smooth movement.
All of the finished boards were darling. A relief considering how nervous we all were handling wood-burning pens for the first time!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mentioned our snacks. We snacked on deliciously adorned Triscuit crackers. Anita and Amy both played with toppings. My two favorites were the roasted marshmallow and peanut butter dusted in chocolate flakes and chevre mixed with honey, smoked black pepper and organic thyme (June’s Joy from Pure Luck Cheeses) topped with blackberries.
There’s something both satisfying and empowering about crafting and creating. I quite enjoyed spending a quiet rainy Saturday afternoon working (and eating!) with my hands!
Several weeks ago I was invited to Finn & Porter to a media tasting and I remain impressed by their service and Chef Peter Maffei’s execution of the menu. What follows is some of my favorite bites from a lovely night. Thank you, Finn & Porter!
Chicken Liver Pâté, sourdough bread, red onion marmalade
I grew up eating pâté, sometimes plain with just bread and other times as a spread in a banh mi sandwich. I think I smile every time I see pâté on a menu; I definitely smiled while eating this.
Pan Seared Scallops, with shaved brussel sprouts, warm bacon dressing and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with red pepper celery salad
That crab cake was generous with the crab and slicing into a perfectly cooked scallop is one of my favorite pleasures in life. You cover that scallop with warm bacon dressing and you get pleasure on top of pleasure.
Confit Duck & Foie Gras Pot Pie
I brought Sugarface to this tasting and he isn’t the greatest fan of foie gras but this was his favorite dish. I claimed most of that beautifully seared piece of foie gras. They also used foie gras in the roux of this pot pie. Decadent and comforting, this pot pie was un-foie-gettable.
Trio of Roasted Beets with goat cheese and pistachio
Beets and goat cheese, a tried and true combination.
Grilled Gulf Shrimp over citrus, fennel, macadamia nuts salad
With confit grape, kohlrabi, pearl onion, and sherry jus, this quail was uniquely prepared. They used parts of the quail to make a quail sausage and stuffed the quail breast with the house-made sausage. It was also a treat not have to handle tiny quail bones.
Sea Bass with baby bok choy and roasted mushroom broth
This sous vide sea bass was my favorite entrée. The broth was light with just enough flavor to tantalize and draw you in for another taste. The sea bass flaked perfectly.
If you find yourself roaming the street these days of SXSW and are looking for a quiet cocoon in downtown, come give Finn & Porter a try!
For the next four days, Austin will have The French Bistro Pop Up lunch and dinner service from Michelin-Rated Chef Gérard Bossé and Chef Rémi Fournier at the French Legation Museum. They are here for SXSW and are serving 50 lunches and 50 dinners to a lucky 100. I had the pleasure of previewing their menu yesterday and it was quite a treat.
We sampled the sea bream in a fennel and carrot broth, seared scallops in a delectable meunière sauce, and my favorite was the caramel mousse with a crispy shortbread crust.
I am not a very good adult and consume coffee about four times as much as I do water. I love that Austin enables my addiction. For my coffee guide, I focused on places where you may not expect to find coffee, places that also serve alcohol, places great on sunny days, places to work, and of course places to flirt.
Unexpected Cups of Coffee
Not only can you get your grocery shopping done but you can also enjoy pour over coffee at their coffee bar/gelato stand. The North Lamar location has a lovely patio and sometimes live entertainment.
Flat Track Coffee
913 E Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78702
Open: Monday – Friday 8a-6p; Saturday – Sunday 9a-6p
With five bar stools for seating, this is not the place to hunker down or lounge. Word on the street is this place is tiny and thus hard to find but their espresso game is strong. Pun intended. Points for being adjacent to a bookstore with no name.
400 Nueces St. Austin, TX 78701
Open: Monday – Friday 7a-70; Saturday 7a-6p; Sunday 8a-5p
Find this cheekily named coffee shop inside Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. They use Stumptown beans and serve sandwiches and breakfast tacos.
1401 South Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78704
Open: Monday – Friday 6a-8p; Saturday 7a-9p; Sunday 7a-8p
Shoe and eyeglasses store with a charity donation stop and coffee bar inside. Feel good and good about yourself when you enjoy a cup here.
They have delectable garlic fries and a proscuitto arugula pizza I love, but did you know they also have good coffee and desserts? I didn’t know about the coffee here until I started my coffee research.
Radio Coffee and Beer
4204 Manchaca Rd., Austin, TX 78704
Open: Monday – Friday 6:30a-12a; Saturday – Sunday 7:30a-12a
I’m a softie for repurposed houses. I like coming here after a long work week to just drink a half pour of a milk stout and then follow it up with a latte. The patio lounge chairs are inviting. No wifi after 5pm. I learned this the hard way! Come here to socialize in groups or enjoy the chill vibes with a date. Check out my friend Mad Betty’s review.
Oddly shaped seating arrangements can put you directly across and a couple of feet above someone, getting a view of the top of his or her head and they the view of your laptop or cleavage. Weirdly the seating arrangements makes for a very productive atmosphere. I love their specialty signature lattes Summermoon and Wintermoon (half moon). I get a quarter moon because even the half moon is too sweet for me. Delicious!
Seventh Flag Coffee Co
1506 S 1st St. Austin, TX 78704
Open: Monday – Friday 6:30a-7p; Saturday – Sunday 7a-7p
I enjoy sitting outside with company here but a peek inside tells me it’s a great place to work. Really clean and has a rustic feel. Has good wifi.
1010 E Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78702
Open Monday – Friday 7a-11p; Saturday 8a-11p; Sunday 8a-4p
I came here to work once and sat by two people who met on Tinder on their first date. Which tells me Cenote caters to those who want to eat, to those who want to work, to those who want to mingle, to those who met on Tinder.
Another Austin icon and must visit. Great for dates and socializing. There is often live music and Amy’s Ice Cream and desserts. My coworker just told me he met his wife at Mozart’s. Consider that anecdotal evidence for Mozart’s being a good date spot.
I complied a list of date spots in Austin, Texas as part of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance yearly city guide collaboration. What made this post both difficult and easy to write is that really any venue could be a great date spot if you’re spending time with someone you like and find attractive. That said, I focused on coffee date alternatives, spendy dates, dives and holes-in-the-wall, cozy and intimate restaurants, and picnic spots. I hope you enjoy this list and are inspired go on dates!
For when you’re tired of the coffee first date but aren’t ready to commit to a full meal
1713 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704
Open: Tuesday – Thursday 11a-10p; Friday – Saturday 11a-12a. Closed Monday.
The first of a handful of repurposed houses in my list, Dolce Neve is relatively new in the gelato scene in Austin. The space is cheerful and bright, a great place for a casual date.
A coffee bar downtown, Halcyon has become an Austin staple and their table top s’mores an iconic Austin dessert. They often have live music in the evenings and serve comforting small bites and desserts.
I’m so happy that Austin finally has a snow ice cafe! Bright, casual, and a nice change to the coffee date. If you’ve never had snow ice, imagine gelato and shaved ice got together and had a baby. Their baby is snow ice.
For when you’re feeling spendy
Hudson’s On The Bend
3509 Ranch Rd 620 N, Austin, TX 78734
Open: Monday 6p-9p; Tuesday – Thursday 6p-10p; Friday-Saturday 5:30p-10; Sunday 6p-9p
When I think of Hudson’s On The Bend, I think classic fine dining in Austin. Hudson’s On The Bend may be my very first fine dining experience in Austin ten years ago. Hudson’s On The Bend has a beautiful property and specializes in game. You can say it has strong game game!
East Side King is an Austin must visit. With multiple locations with slight differences between the menus, I suggested this location for because of the homage to holes-in-the-wall. Tucked in the back of the bar, Hole in the Wall, this location is also the only location that serves ramen.
Kin & Comfort
1700 W Parmer, Ste 100, Austin, TX 78727
Open: Monday 11a-8p; Wednesday – Sunday 11a-8p. Closed Tuesday.
I miss living just behind this shopping center! Tucked inside Hanna World Market is Kin & Comfort. I’ve tried everything on the menu and liked it all. I recommend the Son-In-Law deviled eggs and Shrimp and Grits. On one of my visits, I dined with Mad Betty who wrote a great review. Since you’ll already be in the neighborhood, hop on over to Snow Monster for a fun dessert option.
Nau’s Enfield Drug
1115 W Lynn St, Austin, TX 78703
Open: Monday – Friday 7:30a-4p; Saturday 8a-4p; Sunday 10:30a-3:30p
I haven’t been here but have a list of places I want to hit up with Sugarface. He doesn’t know it yet unless he’s reading but this place is on the list! This is located in the back of a 50’s styled pharmacy and has a 50’s soda shop feel. They have an old fashion soda machine and serve burgers.
Arro is a sophisticated French restaurant with all the lighting and acoustics to facilitate eye gazing and intent listening. It’s been hit or miss with the food myself but many of my friends and acquaintances hold their food in high esteem.
1519 E Cesar Chavez, Ste 200, Austin, TX 78702
I attempted to go here once but the line was three hours long. Some of my close friends say Bufalina is one of their favorite date spots. Quaint space and great pizza. If you are discouraged by the line, take a leisurely stroll hand in hand to WeatherUp which usually doesn’t have outstanding waits.
I double date with Anita and her boyfriend pretty often with Sugarface. On one of our double dates, Anita’s boyfriend and I were engaged in some friendly trash talk. We were discussing flavors in a broth and fennel was brought up. I bragged that I make this delicious fennel and chicken dish. Anita’s boyfriend counters by saying he makes an awesome salmon fennel dish. We both then laid claim that our respective dishes trumps the other’s. Our playful banter escalated to a Fennel Off.
Our more humble significant others took the opportunity to try out fennel dishes to complement our main entrees. Sugarface made a delicious gin cocktail and appetizer and Anita made a fennel dessert. As we ate through the courses and found ourselves all enjoying each other’s contributions, our animosity died and we declared ourselves all winners. Details are now hazy but we might have all high-fived each other.
Sugarface’s cocktail had fennel and orange and gin and was so refreshing. Everyone except me had second cocktails. If I could handle my alcohol, I would have done so too!
Sugarface also made an apple, bacon, fennel chutney that we nibbled on while the salmon roasted. He cut down the bacon from half a pound to just over a quarter pound. We thought it was perfect. The three flavors went well together! I love that Sugarface’s contributions were both so different. One could say, they were like apples and oranges!
Anita’s boyfriend roasted salmon over fennel, onions, and cherry tomatoes. He is a health conscious person and likes staying away from starches and eating vegetables. After tasting this dish, I can see why he makes this pretty often. It’s tasty and you feel like a virtuous healthy person when you eat it. I don’t have a recipe link to share but it is a simple roast.
I roasted chicken thighs with fennel and lemon. This is one of my go to recipes for quite some time now. The very first time I made this dish was the first time I cooked with fennel. I remember being wary of having a licorice flavored chicken, but roasting does wonders to fennel and when you roast it with lemon, white wine, and chicken fat? Delectable! It also takes no time to make and is a great work day dinner recipe.
Finally, Anita made a fennel panna cotta. Remember when I told you how we called ourselves all winners? We did but then we tried Anita’s dessert and unanimously decided if there was going to be a winner for the night, it would be the panna cotta. Anita modified the recipe linked by serving it with raspberries instead of spiced pears. The fennel flavor really comes through in the panna cotta. It was a light texture with a distinct fennel flavor. I wanted to swim in it.
I know how dorky it sounds to say we had a double date centered around fennel, but it was truly a highlight of my weekend!
Question: Do you have any favorite fennel recipes? Please share!